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Progressive caucus chair warns that Joe Biden is alienating Muslim voters with handling of Israel-Gaza conflict

Younger, progressive voters disgust with mounting Gaza death toll could be serious weight for Biden in 2024

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 03 December 2023 22:53 GMT
Joe Biden speech interrupted by protester calling for ceasefire

The leader of the caucus representing his party’s left flank is warning Joe Biden: the threat of pushing away key constituencies by mishandling the war in Gaza is real.

Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday and warned that Mr Biden risked pushing away not only Muslim voters at home — a key part of his voter coalition — but also tarnishing the US’s relationships with majority-Muslim countries abroad, particularly in the Middle East.

And she added that Democrats needed to be out working “right now” to shore up the vulnerabilities being exposed in that coaltion before it was too late.

“Look, I am a supporter of President Biden, and I will continue to be,” said the congresswoman, even though she contended that the president’s team had “alienated huge communities” with an unwavering support for Israel’s military campaign. More than 14,000, mostly civilians, are believed dead in Gaza as the bloody siege of the tightly-packed territory continued this week following the end of a truce.

“We have to be realistic about that, and we have to do work right now to address that,” she said.

The congresswoman’s warnings are borne out by polling. Surveys indicate that a growing segment of Mr Biden’s party, in particular younger voters, women and nonwhite voters, disapproves of the administration’s handling of the crisis. On social media, the activist left has rallied behind calls for the president to pressure Israel and Hamas into reaching a permanent ceasefire in the hopes of averting an even higher death toll. Staggering images of human suffering and carnage continues to pour out of Gaza as the military operation continues day-by-day, adding further fuel to the calls for an end to the conflict.

The danger for the president heading into an election year is obvious: Mr Biden will need to rebuild his 2020 coalition if he is to win reelection against a Republican opponent — most likely Donald Trump, the 90-plus-times-indicted former president and current GOP frontrunner. Already, his support has waned due to growing concerns about his age and ability to both physically and mentally perform the duties of president, a concern most widely held among the same younger voters now breaking with him en masse over the war.

Polling this far out from an election is no certain thing; the incumbent has several months to buffer his own defences while attacking Mr Trump or whoever ends up being the Republican nominee. Still, there are clear reasons for him to be concerned, especially given that he is now trailing the former president in a majority of the crucial battleground states he will need to win the Electoral College. Michigan, one of those swing states, in particular is home to a sizable community of Muslim voters which broke heavily for Mr Biden in his 2020 victory over Mr Trump.

Mr Biden remains adamant that he will run again in 2024, and the White House has insisted that it is putting pressure on Israel’s government to avoid civilian casualties as the IDF seeks to destroy Hamas, the terrorist group responsible for a deadly October rampage across southern Israel.

“I want to be careful that I don’t speak to Israeli military operations and get ahead of what they’re doing. That would be inappropriate for me to do,” White House national security council spokesman John Kirby said on Sunday, speeking with NBC’s Meet the Press. “What I can tell you is that in our conversations with them, they have said that they agree with our idea here that the approach they take matters, that the reduction of civilian casualties and, quite frankly, minimizing damage to civilian infrastructure is important to them.”

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